Upcoming Virtual Event

Virtual Event: Jordan Ellenberg


The Hidden Geometry of Information,
Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else

in conversation with CATHY O'NEIL


May 26, 2021
5:00 PM ET


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.


Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome mathematician and New York Times–bestselling author JORDAN ELLENBERG—author of How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking—for a discussion of his latest book, Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else. He will be joined in conversation by CATHY O'NEIL, author of Weapons of Math Destruction

Contribute to Support Harvard Book Store

While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of Shape on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.

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About Shape

How should a democracy choose its representatives? How can you stop a pandemic from sweeping the world? How do computers learn to play Go, and why is learning Go so much easier for them than learning to read a sentence? Can ancient Greek proportions predict the stock market? (Sorry, no.) What should your kids learn in school if they really want to learn to think? All these are questions about geometry. For real.

If you're like most people, geometry is a sterile and dimly remembered exercise you gladly left behind in the dust of ninth grade, along with your braces and active romantic interest in pop singers. If you recall any of it, it's plodding through a series of miniscule steps only to prove some fact about triangles that was obvious to you in the first place. That's not geometry. Okay, it is geometry, but only a tiny part, which has as much to do with geometry in all its flush modern richness as conjugating a verb has to do with a great novel.

Shape reveals the geometry underneath some of the most important scientific, political, and philosophical problems we face. Geometry asks: Where are things? Which things are near each other? How can you get from one thing to another thing? Those are important questions. The word "geometry," from the Greek for "measuring the world." If anything, that's an undersell. Geometry doesn't just measure the world—it explains it. Shape shows us how.

Praise for Shape

“[Jordan Ellenberg] is up to the engaging standard of his prior book . . . almost anyone is likely to enjoy Ellenberg’s prose, and mind.” —Harvard Magazine

“Serious mathematics at its intriguing, transporting best . . . [a] humorous, anecdotally rich dive into numerous mathematical theories.” —Kirkus

Shape is a triumph of mathematical exposition, exposing profound truths—from the nature of distance to the predictability of randomness—as well as profound mistakes—from historical misattributions to Supreme Court justice hardheadedness—with eloquence and hilarious wit. Ellenberg's evident affection for both his subject and his reader makes us feel like the lucky ones who get to hear him hold forth in an intimate setting about his favorite subject, mathematics.” —Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction

Cathy O’Neil
Cathy O’Neil

Cathy O’Neil

Cathy O’Neil is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. She is a mathematician who has worked as a professor, hedge-fund analyst and data scientist. She founded ORCAA, an algorithmic auditing company, and is the author of Weapons of Math Destruction.

Jordan Ellenberg
Jordan Ellenberg

Jordan Ellenberg

Jordan Ellenberg is a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard and an MFA in creative writing from Johns Hopkins. His areas of research specialization are number theory and algebraic geometry. He has written articles on mathematical topics in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and The Believer, and is a regular columnist for Slate.

Photo Credit: Mats Rudels


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Harvard Science Book Talks

The Harvard Science Book Talks series is a collaboration between the Harvard University Division of Science, the Harvard Library, and Harvard Book Store. The series features talks by the authors of recently published books on a variety of science-related topics and is open to both the Harvard community and to the general public. Typically, lectures are followed by a book signing with the author and refreshments. Learn more and watch recordings of past talks here

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